By Dr. Kristin McCaig
I am so happy to say that I am seeing more often than ever, so many more parents choosing to hand out alternatives to candy for trick-or-treaters.
For those of you who are on the verge of making the switch, but still find yourself with a half eaten box of chocolate bars and bags of chips for Halloween night, this blog is meant to help get you over the hump.
I understand that changing tradition is a challenge for people because it requires a shift in how you think and in the actions you take. It was hard for me too.
If you are not feeling good about all the Halloween candy going into your own or your children’s bellies here is my advice to you:
Do things that support what you value.
Halloween is a lot of fun. Dressing up, carving pumpkins, crafting and decorating all around the house. These are all part of it.
And yes, there is food.
Food is inescapable and for good reason. Food is fun. It is part of the celebration. It is something we look forward to.
Dipping bananas in yogurt and giving them dark chocolate eyeballs, making devilled eggs that look like spiders or carving a watermelon to look like it is barfing up guacamole, these are all fun ideas, but unfortunately the side effects of the traditional packaged Halloween candy are not so fun.
Halloween may only come once a year and yes it is true that a handful of candy once a year isn’t likely to have a huge impact on the overall health of a child who eats great food every day, plays outdoors for long periods of time, gets lots of sleep and has their nervous system checked often, but it still is going to move them away from health, not toward it. And most children sadly, do not fulfill the above criteria anyway.
In addition, childhood obesity is everywhere and one of its major culprits is sugar, which is more addictive than cocaine...so I think it is safe to say that Halloween candy is part of a bigger problem.
I don't JUST do it for the kids.
I don’t buy traditional Halloween candy because it is an unhealthy choice for my children and my neighbor’s kids, but another great reason to make the switch to something healthier is that I know that I would not be able to stay out of it if it is in my house. Instead I choose a few pieces from the loot the kids bring home and that will give me my fix.
Eating candy leads me to feel tired, to skip the gym, to feel crappy about myself and then since I’ve gone this far what's the harm in a little more candy? This is the slippery slope otherwise known as the vortex of unhealthy eating. I avoid it.
What else can I buy?
In the past we have purchased little dark chocolates from Costco. It’s less sugar, better quality chocolate and I am ok with feeding that to my own children.
Other great alternatives include:
- Glow sticks
- Small packs of Play-Doh
- Cookie cutters
- Small erasers
These ideas are unique, relatively exciting and even practical (erasers are like gold in our house when it comes to homework).
What will the neighbors think? I don't know about you, but I have honestly never heard a parent complain that someone gave his or her child a non-candy treat. I’ll bet they really appreciate it.
In my house...
After we go through and take out the “absolutely-not candies,” my kids choose a specified number of treats from their plastic pumpkins and eat them whenever they want. They are usually choosing between chocolate bars and plain chips. Then, they leave the rest of their candy on the porch for the Halloween Goblin who comes and trades them for a small toy or something special (money, Larabars, jogging pants… be creative!). Another idea I recently heard was that you can offer to trade twenty-five cents for every piece of candy they turn in...whatever works for your family.
After they crash and complain of feeling ill, I remind them that this is why we don’t usually eat this stuff. It is not real food. I go into my favorite mommy speech, “It will not make you fast for hockey, make math come easier or help you to grow tall and strong. It just makes you slow and sick.” (Yep, this little speech is still working, but I’ll let you know when I come up with a new one!)
I prefer the “eat it when you like” approach versus the “one candy a day” approach because they say it takes about 21 days to create a habit so it makes sense that when a child is given candy every day for a few weeks, they will be more likely to experience a physical and psychological expectation for that sugar boost every day. It’s sugar addiction.
As you create your final approach to Halloween this year consider how you can keep the fun alive while decreasing the overall toxicity on yourself and your children.
If you don’t feel good about what you are doing, it’s time to think about why that is and come up with a plan that supports what you value.
We’ve put together some awesome, spooky, whole food Halloween ideas on our Pinterest board. You can check that out by clicking here.
Please let us know in the comments below all of your great ideas for alternative treats!